An Interview with Partnerships Expert Elisabeth Root: Making Space for Fierce Self-Awareness in Partnerships
Elisabeth Root has worked in Big Tech partnerships for over a decade. Now, she’s starting a Partnerships Consulting business - and exploring the art of creating real space for self awareness, experimentation, and innovation.
Between 2012 and 2023, Elisabeth Root handled partnerships for two of the most well-known technology companies in the world—Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. Now, she’s establishing her own partnerships consulting business with an emphasis on accelerating market-maker partnerships. The ideal client? One who is willing to create space to unfold the most unexpected ideas: to pause for curiosity, to make a practice out of wonder. Why?
In her early years at both AWS and Google Cloud she helped countless emerging partnerships— some tiny boutiques, and others more established but with other technologies —operationalize the work of integrating their value prop with that of the fastest growing technology firms in the world. And she witnessed a phenomenon of lost voices, where the firm’s real edge was crushed by an urgency to assimilate to become eligible for whatever funding program was trending at the time.
She became passionate about coaching these boutique and mid-sized firms to celebrate their special sauce, identify the integration points with their partnerships, and focus and sell their story better together and quickly rise to the top of the ecosystem at record speed.
Now, as she sets out to do this work on her own, she is coming face to face with the importance of creating intentional space for self awareness. She really had no choice.
Sarah: How are things going for you?
Elisabeth: Great—it’s been a wild month! I left my job at Google on August 1st. Since putting in my notice back in late June I had been burning the candle at both ends to package up my business in a way that felt good to leave it, while being fully aware that my backfill would put their own stamp on it! I was like, “Okay, I’m going to leave Google, hand off this business, and I’m going to start my own business the Monday after.” But when that day came I realized the most valuable thing for me right now is to take a beat to reflect. My body told me this. I was absolutely exhausted.
I’m realizing the value of making space to unfold, and taking time to allow myself time to be curious. This is where the innovation comes through.
So I’ve made a practice out of unwinding the embodied pressure that I’ve made a habit out of putting on myself. It’s truly in my body: the urgency, the reactivity, the overbooking. If you’ve been in this ecosystem at all you know what I’m talking about. And for this new chapter in my life and career I get to undergo some rewiring. We can do this through our breath, as most of us by now know. Knowing it is one thing, making a practice out of it is something else entirely.
Sarah: What are your plans for your new business?
Elisabeth: I’m offering Partnership Strategy in the hyperscale space, rooting my offerings in my vast partnership experience between AWS and Google Cloud as well as the integral practices that we know help us to unfurl our most innovative work. I am a Partnerships Strategist who happens to also be certified both as a yoga teacher and Integral Executive Coach, so I bring holistic insights that are not typical in the hyperscale space. I’m thrilled about this opportunity to integrate my experience and passions in this new way of serving the partnership space. I am really excited about the concept of introducing intentional space for self awareness and exploration in business strategy and in life.
I’m taking the time now to meet and workshop with partners and industry players, helping me to design my own Go to Market Strategy as the new insights present themselves. As I create my intentional space—to rest, to heal, to inquire and experiment—I feel viscerally more alive in my creative process. I’m having so much fun. I’m in the same state of wonder that I want to help make accessible to all business strategists.
To me, to be in “wonder” means to be intentional about the practice of inquiry—to apply discipline to keep from rushing right to solutioning, which we do all the time. It means making a practice out of reflectively lingering in the art of process.
Inquiry opens us to who we are and what we want to bring forth, both as individuals and in setting company strategy. Here’s one example that ties to my own story: I’ve moved up in my career, and I’ve wondered out loud, “What is it about emerging partners that hooks me?” I mean, this is where I started, why do I still want to play here? I built the first Onboarding and Emerging Partner program for AWS. I then built the first Growth Partner business for Google while building a portfolio of new partnerships. I built one of Google’s most successful SI partnerships, and once they were in the flywheel stage I knew I had to hand them off.
For me the magic is in the early stages of partnership. This is where we play in the art of the possible with keen awareness of the KPIs that qualify the partnership for attention. It’s a precarious integration of a partner's special sauce and the system that will help it scale. I’ve worked with all the partner types—ISVs, Resellers, boutique SIs and National SIs, MSPs and so on. This meandering path has afforded me the opportunity to impact the trajectories of countless businesses—and to learn so much! But I’d say eyebrows have certainly raised around me as I repeatedly choose to begin again in build mode vs climbing the status quo career ladder.
Sarah: Did it scare you to buck the status quo like that?
Elisabeth: For me, laying a new foundation always starts with digging down into “What do I have to offer that is uniquely mine?” because there is no playbook when you’re building. And yes, that’s scary. But over time the best practices emerge, and that’s what I get to share now. There have definitely been moments where I wondered “Am I career self-sabotaging?” because I’ve really never been interested in building empires or aiming for exec titles, and I did see my friends and peers going that way. So, my path certainly triggered the inner critic at times.
I’m realizing that the inner critic is my teacher if I’m patient enough to ask where she is coming from. Mine comes from cultural conditioning around the good girl identity. She says things like “Oh hey girl, this is the ladder and you’re on it, so why are you climbing out on those tree limbs? You are lucky to even be here!” And then I get to tell her, “Because my flavor of success does not happen on that ladder. It seems to be built for someone else.”
Being in conversation with the inner critic shows me my inner fire and my true direction. This is the definition of creating space for fierce self awareness. It applies to personal development as much as business development.
Status quo disruptors are always change makers. This applies to emerging technology partners as much as all of the humans who are underrepresented in tech—or any field—where just being here is an affront to the status quo.
Sarah: Do you believe self-awareness and personal growth can help partnerships pros in the working world?
Elisabeth: 100%. One phrase I love to use is “fierce self-awareness.” If you can be fiercely self-aware as a partner you are a step ahead—always. I’ve seen many partners check the boxes of the program requirements only to be left out in the cold when the anchor partner changes up its strategy. There is a power in this willingness to be self aware. Sometimes it hurts, but not as badly as being stuck in ways that have become stale.
If you know the Amazon LPs you’ve heard of “vocally self-critical”. If I could rewrite that I’d say “fiercely, and lovingly, self-aware”.
The tenet of self awareness keeps you clear on the value you are bringing to the partnership and ultimately to the joint customer, and clear on the areas you need to develop. Awareness of your value and your gaps open new opportunities for strategic partnership. Your gaps—or weaknesses, if you want to call them that—are like recessed pieces in a puzzle that another partner’s strengths will click into.
Sarah: Finally, how can companies build future-proof partnership strategies?
Elisabeth: Let’s start by remembering that the future changes. If your partnerships aren’t set up to evolve they probably aren’t future-proof. Every firm should have a holistic strategy-development process that provides a foundation to all of your partnerships-—not just one—while supporting movement and flexibility across your portfolio.
Space for self-awareness, inquiry, and wonder invite experimentation and iteration. This is how we move fast and stay true to the unique edge that makes our customers love us and our partners want to go to market with us. The willingness—or better yet, the purposeful intention—to create space for strategic exploration—to really focus on customer outcomes and to explore integration in unexpected ways—is the opening to a genuinely symbiotic partnership strategy.
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